Here are some excellent books, websites, magazines, etc, for those of you interested in finding out more about the world of sports. If you would like to know more on these, feel free to contact me. The three books I have placed at the top are the ones I recommend the most; the rest are in order of where they are on my haphazard bookshelves.
Why England Lose
S Kuper & S Szymanski
Football book, 2010
This is simply the single book I have enjoyed reading the most, and probably the greatest influence on this website. The authors look at various clichés in the world of football, and apply logic and statistical procedures to them to see if they hold up.
Includes: which country is the biggest overperformer, why the biggest cities never win the European Cup, and a look a penalties which is heavily referenced in this website's first article.
Football book, 2000
This was possibly the first book decribing the culture and history of a particular nation, in this case my personal favourite footballing country - the Netherlands. An unpredictable, delightfully written guide to the nation, it makes you yearn for the early-70s.
Includes: how the Dutch have different spacial awareness, an interview with Johnny Rep, and that goal by Marco van Basten.
Football book, 2006
This book takes an original look at how history has formed England's attitudes towards football. This book takes in a lot of outside influences, and is often very critical of the repressed, overly-macho style that has evolved in England. Not one for big fans of history, but still a good read.
Includes: how football was developed as an antidote for mastubation, whether England has really been in continual decline, and how Roy Keane is an immortal who has been ever-present throughout the history of literatute.
More Than A Game
Cricket book, 2008
The former Prime Minister shows that he has an incredible knowledge of the ancient game, by charting the history of cricket from its origins as the bane of local churches, all the way up until the World Wars. The ancient myths about the game are scrutinised with a historian's eye, and allows you get a really good sense of the characters in the formative years of cricket.
Includes: how The Ashes came about, a few digs at New Labour, and how former Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke was a selfish batsman.
Football book, 2003
Another book looking specifically at football in a particular country, this is the turn of Germany. This is probably my single favourite book of its kind, told with real humour and verve. Lets you know the real history of German football, including the very difficult war years (a true reflection of Germany during the war is often hard to find due to propaganda), and charting how the country became tournament experts.
Includes: how it took until 1963 for Germany to have a professional league, how tennis tried to usurp football, and why 1860 Munich apparently precede Notts County.
Football book, 2003
Another footballing national guide, this is football in the current hotbed of football, Spain. Morbo is a complex term laced with many different meanings, but put very basically, is a description of rivalry various clubs have, exemplified by the cover picture; Luis Figo finally taking a corner, after Barcelona fans had thrown all sorts of various objects at him, including the infamous pig's head. It is a fascinating book, which despite not being particularly long, is still very informative. Mainly focusing on the most successful sides, it does impart some knowledge on the smaller clubs, too.
Includes: why Athletic Bilbao insist their Southampton-inspired kits are in fact based on Sunderland, how General Franco suppressed football outside the capital, and how Madrid stole Alfredo di Stéfano.
Football book, 2002
Alex Bellos is exactly my kind of author. As a football writer, he has written this book, as well as the English version of Pelé's autobiography. However, he is also a mathematics graduate, and has written two absolutely tremendous popular maths books: Alex's Adventures in Numberland and Alex Through the Looking-Glass, which I would highly recommend anyone to read, no matter their knowledge of the subject. Anyway, this book is a look at football in Brazil, the most successful country in the world. As with most books of this kind, it looks at football in the country from almost random angles. More than just the history of the glorious successes of the national team, we find out about the catestrophic defeat in the final match of the 1950 World Cup, as well as the highs and lows of domestic football, with a keen eye turned towards corruption.
Includes: how the famous yellow kit was designed in a competition, Brazilian footballers playing in the Faroe Islands, and how Maicon is named after Michael Douglas.
A Ward & J Williams
Football book, 2009
This book charts the game of football after the Second World War. An unorganised mixture of tales from various moments in the game's history, often focusing on the personal stories from various fans and other lesser-known figures within the game. Running stories within the book are how hooliganism was dealt with, and how the footballing authorities were regularly inept at changing with the times. My highlight of the book was the use of a fictional TV show transcript to showcase various people's viewpoints on the demise of the England team.
Includes: the very brief history of MK "Franchise FC" Dons, why referees quit the game and a cracking picture of Jimmy Hill's chin.
The Hidden Mathematics of Sport
R Eastaway & J Haigh
General sports book, 2011
On a rare trip to London, I took shelter in Foyle's to escape the rain and amazingly, the first book I see was this completely fantastic guide to the links between my two interests. Also, coincidentally, I had seen one of the authors give a speech at Old Trafford earlier in the year. This book caters for all levels of mathematical knowledge - it does include equations, but these are kept separate in the appendices.
Includes: the best place to take a rugby conversion from, lots of fantastic puzzles, and, you guessed it, a look at the game theory of penalties, which is also referenced in our penalties article on this site.
An interesting site created by a friend of mine (a fellow mathematician from Yorkshire, I may add). There is a particular focus on cricket and Ultimate.
Includes: which England cricketers are better at setting a score, and which are better at chasing, some fancy medical words like "peroneal tendon", and which non-Aussies to look out for at the ICC Champions Trophy.
The Best XI
Cricket book, 2008
Here, Yorkshire and England legend Geoffrey Boycott takes his abilities at choosing cricket teams to the realm of hypothesy, and picks his best ever XI for each of the eight greatest Test nations, as well as an overall XI. Fans of Boycott Bingo will have a field at ticking off all of his common catchphrases, but even for serious cricket fans there is a bit to be learned about each of the biggest characters in the sport's history.
Includes: why Muralitharan is a chucker, some of Fred Trueman's finest witticisms, and how Geoffrey's wife's cooking helped India inflict an innings defeat on England in 2002.
Football book, 2007
Another footballing guide to a country. This tome is a must for anyone who wants to learn about football in Italy. The most meticulous and thorough book of its kind, this is a serious read, but highly rewarding. Gives a fantastic portrait of some of the most famous and infamous personalities throughout the country's history.
Includes: background on the horrific Superga tragedy, the politics of various clubs, and details of the 2006 Calciopoli scandal.
Behind the Curtain
Football book, 2006
Eastern European football is very much misunderstood in the West, due to the secrecy it has been surrounded by. Told with real passion and knowledge, it is a handy grounding on the differences between the various nations. It also inadvertedly gives you a good sense of the political stories at the time, particularly the Yugoslav Wars.
Includes: the life and times of Valeriy Lobanovskyi, Dynamo Kiev's incredibly successful manager, how Poland ended the career of Sir Alf Ramsey, and the true nationality of 1966's "Russian linesman".
Motson's National Obsession
A Ward & J Motson
Football book, 2004
This is a miscellany book looking at English football, so it is just a collection of snippets of quotes, facts, figures, historical profiles and more. Motson displays his knowledge of the game and his love of facts in his unique way. The ultimate pub quiz aid, providing you have a perfect memory. As with all miscellany books, this is just such an easy book to read.
Includes: how to execute a Cruyff turn, Emile Heskey's middle name, and a plethora of other random titbits.
The England Football Miscellany
Football book, 2006
Released to coincide with the German World Cup, this is another miscellany book, akin to Motson's National Obsession (above). Another collection of random crumbs of stats, biographies and anecdotes. This book is specifically full of things about the national football team, rather than club football, so there is also large focus on each major tournament.
Includes: how Jack Leslie was denied the chance to play for England because of his race, the only player to captain England at football and cricket, and how Bobby Moore became part of Team America.
Women on the Ball
Football book, 1997
Despite the atrocious textbook-style cover, featuring two players who look like someone has used Paint to edit out the background, this is a very informative and passionate book by Sue Lopez, who played football for twenty years as one of the nation's top players, followed by time spent coaching Wales and working behind the scenes of the game. Very educating for anyone who wishes to learn about the hidden side to the game.
Includes: how the wars promoted the statute of the women's game to almost the level of the men's, profiles of every major international team, and how the FA surpressed the women's game out of fear.
Football book, 2006
This is a thorough walk-through of the history of the laws of football. Virtually everything is discussed here, using entertaining real-world examples to explain concepts.
Includes: which children's tournament awards points for fair play, who won the first ever match to go to extra time, and why a referee tore his yellow card into six pieces.
Inverting the Pyramid
Football book, 2008
The first serious football book I ever read, this book charts the history of football tactics, from the origins of the game where it was played akin to rugby, with many forwards and no 'backs', all the way to the modern era, where this seems to have been reversed, as successive styles have come and gone. It also looks at how tactics were developed in various countries.
Includes: how the Hungarians demolished England in 1953, how catenaccio came about, and the rise and fall of the greatest style in history - Total Football.
Football Magazine, 2011-
Jonathan Wilson, author of a couple of books on this page, founded this incredible publication in order to get more in-deph articles published. Available online on a pay-as-you-like basis, this boasts articles by Gabriele Marcotti, Simon Kuper, David Winner and Tim Vickery. If you are interested in expanding your knowledge on football at all, there is no excuse not to check this out.
Includes: interviews with the likes of Guus Hiddink and Dennis Bergkamp, history pieces on the likes of Verona and St. Pauli, and just about everything else.
Ajax Barcelona Cruyff
F Barend & H van Dorp
Football book, 1999
One of five books released for the genius Johan Cruyff's 50th birthday, this was the only book he endorsed. Presents a brilliant contemporary picture of Cruyff at various stages of his career, in the form of interviews conducted from 1974 onwards. Cruyff clearly has a good relationship between his interviewers, as the usually awkward character provides enlightening and lengthy answers to their questions.
Includes: how Johan broke a bone which shouldn't have existed, how he views tactics, and why he took up a habit of lollipops.
Feet of the Chameleon
Football book, 2009
This is a marvellous look at football in Africa. Of course, in a continent boasting 56 countries, it is quite hard to tell the reader about every one of them, so instead we are given snapshots of different key moments in various countries. Rather than just focusing on the national teams, or the top club teams, we are also given information on the grass-roots level in the continent.
Includes: the tragic air disaster which killed almost the entire Zambia side, how top Algerian players formed a rebel team to campaign for independence, and how George Weah nearly became the President of Liberia.
Provided You Don't Kiss Me
Football book, 2009
The book that beat Feet of the Chameleon (above) to 2009's William Hill Sports Book of the Year award. Author Hamilton was granted close access to Brian Clough over his twenty-year tenure as Nottingham Forest manager. This book lets you know the (almost) mythical man closer than any other book, including Clough's own ridiculous autobiography. Not afraid to deal with the bad as well as the good, albeit from a biased viewpoint, this is highly recommended for anyone who thinks the Damned United is a history book.
Includes: Clough's tantrums and his quips, and how he used Wales to manipulate Forest's board.
The Story of the World Cup
Football book, 2010
The veteran journalist gives his reports on each World Cup, include the few before his time. This is a book which has been published eight times, including just before each of the last five World Cups, no doubt it will be released again in 2014, with an extra chapter for the 2010 World Cup. A highly opinionated book, it is still full of valuable information on each World Cup. The World Cups from the 60's to the 90's are the most heavily featured; the book is particularly light on information from more recent tournaments, however if you want to get a feel for how football has evolved first-hand, there is no other place to go.
Includes: full match results for every tournament, reports on key games, and why penalties are an abomination.
Ashes to Ashes
Cricket book, 2009
This is a true England fan's history of the Ashes, the single most important sporting competition in the world. A very good-humoured book - you probably have to be able to laugh if you've sat through Ashes in the 1990's - it gives you more than a history book does; if gives you a feeling for how players were viewed by the fans. Starting in 1972, the author's first Ashes series, each one is told from Berkmann's first-hand experiences.
Includes: the misery of watching Steve Waugh bat, the contagious euphoria of 1981, and almost a whole page dedicated to the 2006/07 series.
Football book series, 2000-
If you ever want to get a kid into football, this is the series to go to. Made by the creators of Horrible History, these books are full of facts, funny stories and pictures. Various titles look at such things as the history of the English league, the World Cup through the years, and several quiz books.
Includes: how Manchester United bought a player with ice cream, the mighty story of Jimmy Glass, and how Nobby Stiles got booked by a spectator.